Libya could break up like Somalia

By Samir Amin

, by Pambazuka

The revolution in Libya, led by a motley group of democrats and Islamists and their imperialist allies, is likely to entrench the deep divisions in the country, writes Samir Amin, warning of the possibility of disintegration of the nation.

Libya is neither Tunisia nor Egypt. The ruling group (Gaddafi) and the forces fighting it are in no way analogous to their Tunisian and Egyptian counterparts. Gaddafi has never been anything but a buffoon, whose emptiness of thought was reflected in his notorious ‘Green Book’. Operating in a still-archaic society Gaddafi could indulge in successive ‘nationalist’ and ‘socialist’ speeches with little bearing on reality, and the next day proclaim himself a ‘liberal’.

He did so to ‘please the West’, as though the choice for liberalism would have no social effects. But it had and, as is commonplace, it worsened living conditions for the majority of Libyans. The oil rent which was widely redistributed became the target of small groups of the privileged, including the family of the leader. Those conditions then gave rise to the well-known explosion, which the country’s regionalists and political Islamists immediately took advantage of.

For Libya has never truly existed as a nation. It is a geographical region separating the Arab West from the Arab East (the Maghreb from the Mashreq). The boundary between the two goes right through the middle of Libya. Cyrenaica was historically Greek and Hellenistic before it became Mashreqian. Tripolitania, for its part, was Roman and became Maghrebian. Because of this, regionalism has always been strong in the country.

Nobody knows who the members of the National Transition Council in Benghazi really are. There may be democrats among them, but there are certainly Islamists, some among the worst of the breed, as well as regionalists. The president of the council is Mustafa Muhammad Abdeljelil, the judge who condemned the Bulgarian nurses to death and was rewarded by Gaddafi, who named him minister of justice from 2007 to February 2011. For that reason the prime minister of Bulgaria, Boikov, refused to recognise the council, but his argument was not given any follow up by the US and Europe.

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